Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Best Players Not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Defensive Backs

Posted on August 02, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Johnny Robinson was selected to seven Pro Bowls and earned first team All-AFL honors six times.

Johnny Robinson was selected to seven Pro Bowls and earned first team All-AFL honors six times.

Our position-by-position look at the best eligible players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame rolls along with a look at the top defensive backs that have yet to earn a bust in Canton.

The role of the defensive back has changed over the years as defenses have adjusted coverage schemes to account for offensive innovations.

Defensive backs are often measured by their interception totals. However, that can often be a misleading statistic.

Top defenders can disrupt the plans of a quarterback and basically take part of the field, or a particular receiver, out of the game plan simply through their presence.

Of the eight players in NFL history with more than 60 career interceptions, three are not in the Hall of Fame and all three were part of defensive backfields with at least one Hall of Famer or perennial All-Pro.

With 65 interceptions, Ken Riley has the most picks of any player not in the Hall of Fame. He spent his entire career with the Bengals and for many years teamed with Tommy Casanova, Lemar Parrish and Marvin Cobb to give the Bengals one of the best secondary units in the league.

Parrish was selected to eight Pro Bowls and Casanova was selected to three. Both earned first team All-NFL selections once. Despite regularly ranking among the league leaders in interceptions, Riley was never chosen to participate in the Pro Bowl and his only All-Pro selection came in his final year in the league.

Similarly, Dick LeBeau–with 62 career interceptions– teamed in the Detroit backfield with Hall of Famers Yale Lary, Dick “Night Train” Lane and Lem Barney for various stages of his 14-year career. LeBeau was selected to three Pro Bowls, but never was an All-Pro.

Dave Brown had 62 interceptions playing primarily for the Seattle Seahawks. He was named to one Pro Bowl while safety Ken Easley earned five Pro Bowl trips and was a first team All-Pro three times.

In selecting the top defensive backs not in the Hall of Fame I looked at interceptions as one factor, but also looked at other criteria including team success and prowess of the overall defensive unit, Pro Bowl and All-Pro recognition and how they compared with other defensive backs from their era in regards to interceptions and post season honors.

So, here is my list of the top 10 eligible defensive backs not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I look forward to your comments, discussion, and disagreements.

Click Here to read more and see pictures of each player in the top 10.

10. LeRoy Butler – Green Bay Packers – 1990-2001

9. Lemar Parrish – Cincinnati Bengals/Washington Redskins/Buffalo Bills – 1970-1982

8. Deron Cherry – Kansas City Chiefs – 1981-1991

7. Cliff Harris – Dallas Cowboys – 1970-1979

6. Eric Allen – Philadelphia Eagles/New Orleans Saints/Oakland Raiders – 1988-2001

5.  Jimmy Patton – New York Giants – 1955-1966

4. Donnie Shell – Pittsburgh Steelers – 1974-1987

3. Dave Grayson – Kansas City Chiefs/Oakland Raiders– 1961-1970

2. Steve Atwater – Denver Broncos/New York Jets – 1989-1999

1. Johnny Robinson – Kansas City Chiefs – 1960-1971

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